Friday, September 30, 2011

in through the sluice

-------------------- "Can't you hear, Rikki-tikki?'' [the musk-rat asks the mongoose]
Rikki-tikki listened. The house was as still as still, but he thought he could just catch the faintest scratch-scratch in the world, -- a noise as faint as that of a wasp walking on a window-pane, -- the dry scratch of a snake's scales on brick-work.

[a passage from "Rikki-tikki-tavi" - short story by Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book.]

``That's Nag or Nagaina,'' he said to himself; ``and he is crawling into the bath-room sluice. You're right Chuchundra ...
He stole off to Teddy's bath-room, but there was nothing there, and then to Teddy's mother's bathroom. At the bottom of the smooth plaster wall there was a brick pulled out to make a sluice for the bath-water, and as Rikki-tikki stole in by the masonry curb where the bath is put, he heard Nag and Nagaina whispering together outside in the moonlight.

``I had not thought of that,'' said Nag. ``I will go, but there is no need that we should hunt for Rikki-tikki afterward. I will kill the big man and his wife, and the child if I can, and come away quietly. The the bungalow will be empty, and Rikki-tikki will go.''

Rikki-tikki tingled all over with rage and hatred at this, and then Nag's head came through the sluice, and his five feet of cold body followed it. Angry as he was, Rikki-tikki was very frightened as he saw the size of the big cobra. Nag coiled himself up, raised his head, and looked into the bath-room in the dark, and Rikki could see his eyes glitter.
``Now, if I kill him here, Nagaina will know; and if I fight him on the open floor, the odds are in his favour. What am I to do?'' said Rikki-tikki-tavi.

Nag waved to and fro, and then Rikki-tikki heard him drinking from the biggest water-jar that was used to fill the bath. ``That is good,'' said the snake. ``Now, when Karait was killed, the big man had a stick. He may have that stick still, but when he comes in to bathe in the morning he will not have a stick.

I shall wait here till he comes. Nagaina -- do you hear me? -- I shall wait here in the cool till daytime.''

There was no answer from outside, so Rikki-tikki knew Nagaina had gone away. Nag coiled himself down, coil by coil, round the bulge at the bottom of the water-jar, and Rikki-tikki stayed still as death. After an hour he began to move, muscle by muscle, toward the jar. Nag was asleep, and Rikki-tikki looked at his big back, wondering which would be the best place for a good hold. ``If I don't break his back at the first jump,'' said Rikki, ``he can still fight; and if he fights -- O Rikki!''

He looked at the thickness of the neck below the hood, but that was too much for him; and a bite near the tail would only make Nag savage.
``It must be the head,'' he said at last; ``the head above the hood; and when I am once there, I must not let go.''

Then he jumped. The head was lying a little clear of the water-jar, under the curve of it; and, as his teeth met, Rikki braced his back against the bulge of the red earthenware to hold down the head. This gave him just one second's purchase, and he made the most of it.

Then he was battered to and fro as a rat is shaken by a dog -- to and fro on the floor, up and down, and round in great circles; but his eyes were red, and he held on as the body cart-whipped over the floor, upsetting the tin dipper and the soap-dish and the flesh-brush, and banged against the tin side of the bath.

As he held he closed his jaws tighter and tighter, for he was sure he would be banged to death, and, for the honour of his family, he preferred to be found with his teeth locked.

He was dizzy, aching, and felt shaken to pieces when something went off like a thunderclap just behind him; a hot wind knocked him senseless, and red fire singed his fur. The big man had been wakened by the noise, and had fired both barrels of a shot-gun into Nag just behind the hood.
Rikki-tikki held on with his eyes shut, for now he was quite sure he was dead; but the head did not move, and the big man picked him up and said: ``It's the mongoose again, Alice; the little chap has saved our lives.'' Then Teddy's mother came in with a very white face, and saw what was left of Nag, and Rikki-tikki dragged himself to Teddy's bedroom and spent half the rest of the night shaking himself tenderly to find out whether he was really broken into forty pieces, as he fancied.

When morning came he was very stiff, but well pleased with his doings. ```Now I have Nagaina to settle with, and she will be worse than five Nags....


Thursday, September 29, 2011

a placid sky

Communication styles.

A person can
make a big deal, haranguing, demanding, about a small thing
take an important thing in calm stride
affect a style of cool unconcern -- a light touch
dramatize ("I'm-freaking-out-here!")

A wonderful Newsweek article about Bunny Mellon contains this: Mrs. Mellon is quoted as saying to the reporter, "I'll have to put my trust in you and God. Write it nice, friendly, nongossipy. Be kind. Calm it down, calm it down."
Got my vote.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"scary" three

three things "scary" --
(but not really)

1. Last night, poached an egg for the first time in my life. Consulting Professor Google, got some instructions for egg-poaching (put that way, it sounds illegal -- out "poaching eggs," hope game warden doesn't catch us...) --
but the first set of instructions went on and on
and on
and on
seemed like I could "scroll down" forever and not reach the end!
(I quickly become impatient and exasperated with food-prep. instructions that are too complicated. Sometimes experts, and hobbyists, enthusiasts make things complicated out of -- love, I think. They love doing it and describing it, and they make it too intimidating and scary for the likes of me.)

Tried a different web location, and found simpler instructions.
After work, poached one egg, enjoyed it with salad, delicious, success.

2. Have been listening, since last weekend, to a Rolling Stones CD (album) with the "scary" (off-putting) title "Stripped." It is a great record -- even though many of the songs are upbeat, the overall mood is laid-back, somehow: in a funky, bluesy groove. When you listen to it, it helps you feel confident.
Songs on it: "Street Fighting Man,"
"Like a Rolling Stone" (a Bob Dylan song)
"Not Fade Away" (a Buddy Holly song)
"Shine A Light"
"The Spider and the Fly" (blues)
"I'm Free"
"Wild Horses"
"Let It Bleed"
"Dead Flowers"
"Slipping Away"
"Love In Vain" (blues)
"Sweet Virginia" (country blues)
"Little Baby" (blues).

3. Someone commented about "news" that blasts at us in the modern world (21st-century-land), saying, "They always want us to be afraid of something. If not one thing, then another. They try to keep us afraid."
Scare us. Shock us. Make us mad. (Media wants to attain our attention.)
Newsman Al Neuharth, former Gannett exec. & founder of USA Today, writing in his 1991 autobiography Confessions of an S.O.B., called it "Holy shit journalism" -- ya read-it, and ya-go, "Holy shit!"


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

living stories

If a person examines three Rudyard Kipling works --
"Gunga Din";
"Riki Tiki Tavi"
they can notice the rhythmic force and lumbering power in the style, evident in all of these works, even "Riki Tiki Ravi" which is not a poem, but prose.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings -- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much....

[Gunga Din]
When the sweatin' troop-train lay
In a sidin' through the day,
Where the 'eat would make your bloomin' eyebrows crawl,
We shouted "Harry By!"
'Til our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped 'im 'cause 'e
couldn't serve us all.
It was "Din! Din! Din!
"You 'eathen, where the mischief
'ave you been?...

----------- It seems to roll forward, with momentum like the song, "Like A Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan ...

Riki Tiki Tavi is the name of a mongoose, the natural enemy of snakes, in India. In the story, (from The Jungle Book, a collection of short stories for children), Riki Tiki is rescued by an English family (father, mother, and young son) living in India -- even though there's very little physical description, somehow the reader absorbs the feeling of being in India in colonial times (that's the magic...)

And it is scary, because there are snakes in the garden near the family's bungalow. (Snakes in a garden -- hmmh. An allusion to Garden of Eden? When I experienced the story in childhood, think may have missed allusions -- preoccupied with hiding under bed when snakes came on the page. ...)

And I think now maybe that story is a meditation on nature --
the mongoose, the Nice, or Good, in Nature protects the people from
the snakes -- Nature's bearers of malevolence.

What's the message?
We have to work the good,
watch out for the bad.

And the story discusses motives, in a very elementary way: you feel like the mongoose fights and kills snakes because he wants to protect the nice family; but you realize, at the same time, that the mongoose fights and kills snakes because -- that's what mongooses do.

The reader feels the sentiment & emotion and also has laid on him the truth of nature and life: inexorable fortune and fate.


Monday, September 26, 2011

in Injia's sunny clime

And, as Rudyard Kipling has wandered into my blog, I was thinking last week, "What do I know, by him?"
He wrote a lot of stuff: poems, stories, etc.
Nobel Prize.

Kipling works I could remember:
-- the poem "If"
-- the short story "Riki Tiki Tavi" and
-- "Gunga Din"

...and by "remember," I don't mean Memorized, but only some familiarity with...

"Gunga Din" is gritty.

You may talk o' gin and beer
When you're quartered safe out 'ere,
An' you're sent to penny-fights an' Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it.
Now in Injia's sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin' of 'Er Majesty the Queen,

[further on]
'E would dot an' carry one
till the longest day was done;
An' 'e didn't seem to know the use o' fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin' nut,
'E'd be waitin' fifty paces right flank rear.
With 'is mussick' on 'is back,
'E would skip with our attack...

When 'e went to tend the wounded under fire!

It was "Din! Din! Din!"
With the bullets kickin' dust-spots on the green
When the cartridges ran out,
You could hear the front-ranks shout,
"Hi! ammunition-mules an' Gunga Din!"

'E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An' a bullet come an' drilled the beggar clean.
'E put me safe inside,
An' just before 'e died,
"I 'ope you liked your drink" sez Gunga Din.
So I'll meet 'im later on
At the place where 'e is gone
Where it's always double drill and no canteen.
'E'll be squattin' on the coals
Givin' drink to poor damned souls,
An' I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!

... [and at the end]:
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

(Does everyone in the World know that last line, even if they don't really know the poem? Everyone in the English-speaking world, anyway? I feel like they do, but -- I used to think all Americans voted in every presidential election, and it turned out it wasn't true. So now -- I don't know what I know.

Assume nothing.
Watch back.


Friday, September 23, 2011

all men count but none too much

Speaking of memorizing poems so that you can recite them,
there was a poem I'd barely heard --
read aloud by my mother when I was a child, maybe,
or school --
and hadn't thought of in a long time, and
one evening,
in a room with a fire in the fireplace,
a man who was about 90 at the time
recited that poem when the topic of the first lines

("if you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you...")

came up in conversation.
He had learned that poem -- memorized it -- in public school so long ago -- the
1930s (if not the 20s - !) and could say it to us that night, which was -- probably sometime between the years 2000 and 2003. It was pretty unexpected, and amazing.

The poem was "If"
by Rudyard Kipling.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
to serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

In that earlier era, educators thought that having students memorize things was good. They don't believe in that much anymore -- that approach has been gone since -- probably the 1950s.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

the sweetness of you

(You used to hear the term "status quo" (the way things are -- the current state of affairs). I never hear it anymore. ..."Let's keep it status quo" that.)

----------- Thinking about relationships and Love, I remembered things I had read about John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie.
When they got married in 1953, he had already served as a congressman, & been elected to the Senate in 1952. The Plan was in Motion to get him elected president, so Jacqueline Bouvier, 12 years younger than JFK, entered a Career Situation that was already very much up-and-running.

She was "home alone" a lot, because he campaigned (and "senator-ed") much of the time. "We had absolutely no home life," she said later.

Once at a luncheon where Sen. & Mrs. Kennedy were together, JFK said to a colleague, to tease his wife for her shyness about campaigning, "Senator such-and-such, Mrs. Kennedy is superb in her personal life; do you think she will ever amount to anything in her public life?"
And Jackie smoothly and immediately asked the guy, "Senator, Jack is superb in his public life; do you think that he will ever amount to anything in his personal life?"

As he entered the presidency in 1961, JFK and his advisors monitored press coverage and curiosity about Mrs. Kennedy -- there was concern that her "rarefied" tastes -- intellectual, exotic -- (some people call it "arty") might alienate some voters ...and the new president was heard to joke, "She's got too much status and not enough quo"...

I read that when Jackie was reading a book, if JFK thought it looked interesting he would "snatch it up" when she laid it down, & read it himself.

They both enjoyed reading and discussing
history, and poetry,
and they "competed" at memorizing each other's favorite poems.

To the modern listener, that can sound kind of -- different.
Competing? At memorizing poems? All right, then...
"I memorized your favorite poem" -- and then -- recite it aloud.
And the other person answers, "Hey, I memorized two of your favorite poems!"
(Take that!)
Quaint. That's the word I wanted.

Memorizing the other person's favorite poems is actually a pretty cool way to express love, and value of the person.
It says,
"You like it? Then I honor it!"

Some people might scoff and say, "Hey, those were wealthy, privileged people who could take time to sit around memorizing freakin' poetry."
But really, the truth is a person doesn't have to be rich or have a B.A. from Harvard to do cool things like that. If we want to do them, we can do them.

You do not have to be rich to be classy.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

make it home

Searching for the meaning and essence of Love,
I found myself
looking for love songs "in all the wrong places"...

many songs they list as "love songs" are actually
sad songs
depressing songs
songs of loss and lonesome - ness

so I selected the following song which, to me, is an excellent love song
although probably most of the Love Song Listers don't include it:

Well, I pulled out of Pittsburgh,
Rollin' down the Eastern Seaboard.
I've got my diesel wound up,
And she's running like never before.
There's a speed zone ahead, all right,
I don't see a cop in sight.
Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight.

I got ten forward gears,
And a Georgia overdrive.
I'm taking little white pills,
And my eyes are open wide.
I just passed a 'Jimmy' and a 'White':
I've been passin' everything in sight.
Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight.

Well it seems like a month
Since I kissed my baby good-bye.
I could have a lot of women
But I'm not like some other guys
I could find one to hold me tight,
But I could never believe that it's right.
Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight.

I.C.C. is checking on down the line.
I'm a litle overweight and my log's three days behind.
But nothing bothers me tonight
I can dodge all the scales all right,
Six days on the road and I'mk gonna make it home tonight.

Well my rig's a little old
but that don't mean she's slow.
There's a flame from her stack
And the smoke's rolling black as coal.
My hometown's coming in sight,
If you think I'm happy you're right.
Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight.
Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight.
Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

what religion are you?

A correction on what I wrote in my blog last night:
that song from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" did not say,

"you can have a town" -- it was "you can never tell" --

"Love is all around, no need to waste it,
You can never tell, why don't you take it?
You're gonna make it af - ter all..."

"You can have a town" -- ??!
What the hell would that mean??

I was thinking about it last night, and I realized, I typed out the lyrics to that song (which I totally know from memory) but I took them off of a web-site that had Lyrics to all different songs on it.
It said "Lyrics" at the top and seemed all Officialized.
So I allowed that web-site to be the authority, when I actually knew better.
(That isn't right. I felt kind of weird about it. I thought, You know, that's how the Third Reich got rolling -- people taking orders and not questioning authority, even though they knew better.)

The thing to remember about the internet is, Just because something's on there, doesn't mean it's true. It's kind of like a giant, world-wide wall that's open to writing, pictures, graffiti, whatever.

Someone's web-site does not have the authority and credibility of a real Encyclopedia or reference book. It's just People Typing. (I should know, I'm one of 'em.)

There are many things in this world that I don't know much about --
WD-40 --

but ...
"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" is not one of them!
I know.
(Mary Richards, Murray, and Lou Grant [Ed Asner] brainstorming ideas for a TV feature program --
Mary (all cheery and enthusiastic): Mr. Grant, what about nostalgia, as a topic? You know, all the styles, the trends, the music, and how funny they all seem now... [big smile]
Mr. Grant (in a decisive growl): I hate nostalgia. I didn't like it then. I don't like it now.

In the first or second episode of the show, Mary goes in to interview for the newsroom job: she sits nervously in a chair facing Lou Grant's desk; he sits behind the desk, asking questions.
Question - answer.
Question - answer.
Question - answer.
Lou Grant: "What religion are you?"
Mary (her voice is thin and respectful and cautiously firm): "Um, you're not allowed to ask that, when someone's applying for a job. It's against the law."

Lou Grant: "You wanna-calla-cop?"
-- Er, no.
-- Are you married or single?
-- I was -- um -- answering your religion question...


Monday, September 19, 2011

L is for the way...

I was trying to think,
What is Love?

How do you define it?

What is the Great Love?

Is it admiration?
Familiarity and agreeing on things?

Inflection? ("I lu -uh-ve you...!" ??)

Hugging and kissing?
Making sure the Object of Love is OK?

Cheering someone on?
Being genuinely happy for someone's success?

Things I love:
a Bob Dylan concert
Bob Dylan's music
Rolling Stones music
Grateful Dead music,
my Cat,
dogs and cats generally

"The Sound Of Music"
"My Fair Lady"
"South Pacific"

oh, man this isn't working. Well maybe it is -- maybe Love is general, and Everywhere, like God.

Like that song at the beginning of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show":

Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile --
Well it's you, girl, and you should know it,
With each glance and every little movement
you show it --

Love is all around, no need to waste it,
You can have a town, why don't you take it?
You're gonna make it after all...
(hmm mm mmm--)
You're gonna make it after all... (Ta-da!)
Is it possible to write something half-way intelligent and useful about Love?
(Not today, apparently.)
It's one of the Great Mysteries.


Friday, September 16, 2011

in the land of the dollar bill

"Rational Irrationality"
is the title of an article in
The New Yorker
which I need to read.

Topic: economic situation, U.S.

"Money doesn't talk, it swears."
-- Bob Dylan


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

you're invisible now

I am always always always always always always always always always always always always surprised when I hear someone is getting divorced.

And when you think about statistics and realism and the outside world, Logic tells us that I should never never never never never never never be surprised when I hear people are getting divorced.

Logic Brain sees that this is not surprising news.
Romantic idealistic Brain is always surprised.

I am such an idiot that I'm even surprised when I hear that celebrities are getting divorced.
When you think about it, that's funny.

I see -- "see" / imagine -- ideal happy families and relationships marked by kindness and supportive actions and shared humor.

When people seem like they have everything, and you hear they are getting divorced, you automatically think to yourself,
"Why would they want to 'f' that up??"

(When we say people "have everything," what is "everything"?
It's these things -- not necessarily in this order, but in whatever order the people themselves value them:
1. happy, healthy children;
2. financial security / wealth;
3. some version of physical beauty.)

And people who are on the outside of that think, "Why would they want to throw that away?"
But of course people don't want to throw anything away --
they just want to live, probably, and they think they can't, in their situation.

I find it difficult to imagine how desperate a human being would have to be, or the reasons for it, that they would think they can't live, when they have all the Everything.

But -- in a world where "Privacy" has come to be a rare thing because of all the media - electronics - etc. - and apparent obsession for spying, finding out problems of others, and then heaping derision on them, one thing can be said for the Space of Relationship between husband-and-wife: it's probably the last frontier of Privacy. No one really knows what goes on in a marriage because there are too many -- components.

And there's that stereotype that when people get divorced they are going to have conflict over possessions -- who gets what.
It appears to me that there's another contest that sometimes goes on, that's more important to people than who will get the dining room table: the "public relations" competition.
Which one can put "the word out" first and fastest, to say "I left" the other person. If you can say that you're the one who left, then there must be something wrong with the other person (is the unspoken implication that the person -- the "leaver" wants the listener to have, about the -- "leave-ee" (person who got left).

And that awful feeling that you get when people tell you this stuff: like flies on your food. Blick.
(Why are you telling me something sad about other people? Tell me something Happy about You!!...)
A state senator told me once that most problems in marriages occurred when one of the people doesn't feel Valued by the other one.
You don't have to be married to understand that dynamic. That senator has a lot of wisdom.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

invincible summer

In The Art of the Possible, Alexandra Stoddard writes about proactive, non-drug-pushing health:
------------- {excerpt}: Taking care of our physical body is not enough for radiant good health. Our thoughts have a tremendous effect on our bodies and our emotional health, too. Each thought, emotion, and mood releases chemicals from the brain that in turn affect our body and our spirit. In recent years there have been many books, articles, and television shows that explore this powerful mind / body connection. Doctors like Bernie S. Siegel, the author of Love, Medicine, and Miracles; scientists and healers like Joan Borysenko, the author of Minding the Body, Mending the Mind; and thinkers like writer and television producer Bill Moyers have revealed powerful evidence of the mind's ability to heal the body. The stories they share about the lives of people who have overcome terminal illnesses, people who had been given six months to live but who went on to live for years, or people who have slowed the deterioration process, are an inspiration to us all.

Feelings are chemical. When you get scared, for example, your fear sends a chemical message from your brain to your body telling it to sweat, tremble, flee, or feel faint. Persistent negative thoughts affect the immune system perhaps because they tax the system too much and weaken it so that we become vulnerable to illness. Often chronically depressed people become chronically ill with colds, ulcers, viruses, pain, and a host of unexplainable physical complaints. Few of us can be perpetually cheerful or optimistic; that's not where the problem lies. The problem comes from a pattern of attitudes, of constantly thinking and judging yourself weak, sick, helpless, fearful, and incompetent, or always feeling angry and irritated. Illness can also come from demanding too much of yourself, insisting that you always be perfect, happy, and on top of everything. These attitudes can put a strain on your system. Mind-sets determine whether we approach life with a sunny disposition or a bleak one, and that in turn affects our health. Henry David Thoreau seemed to have understood this when he wrote: "Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and spring."

Our capacity to adapt to life's challenges is key to our health and well-being. We become vulnerable when we fail to meet our problems in a balanced way. According to Dr. Richard Totman, author of Mind, Stress, and Health, whenever we become stuck -- which he calls a "blocked action" -- an overwhelming sense of hopelessness takes over. When we are unable to initiate and carry through activities that express our aliveness, it causes stress. This stress then upsets our chemical balance, weakening the immune system. It is not how much life stress we have, but how we manage it that determines our health.
-------------------- {end excerpt}
[The Art of the Possible, by Alexandra Stoddard. Copyright 1995. William Morrow, New York.]

Also excerpted from Stoddard's book, the following quotations from the "Health and Healing" chapter --

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."
-- Albert Camus

"Know how sublime a thing it is / To suffer and be strong."
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(On that one I feel like I would like the even More "sublime" feeling of Not Suffering -- and being strong...! I'm with Woody Allen, who said, "I'd like to achieve immortality by -- not dying.")

"There is no education like adversity."
-- Walt Disney

And --
"Do you imagine the universe is agitated? Go into the desert at night and look at the stars. This practice should answer the question."
-- Lao-Tzu.


Monday, September 12, 2011

low profile

"...Who we breaking in on, anyway?"

"Hannibal Ramos."

"Say what? You mean like the brother of the dead Homer Ramos? And the number one son of the Gun King, Alexander Ramos? Are you freakin' nuts?"

"He's probably not home."
"How are you gonna find out?"
"I'm going to ring his doorbell."
[excerpt, Hot Six. Janet Evanovich. 2000. St. Martin's Press. N. Y.]
...Lula and I stood on the sidewalk and studied Hannibal's house. Drapes still drawn. Very quiet. The houses on either side of Hannibal were quiet, too. Sunday afternoon. Everyone was out at the mall.

"You sure this is the right address?" Lula asked. "This don't look like no big-ass arms-dealer house. I was expecting something like the Taj Mahal. Like where the Donald lives."

"Doanld Trump doesn't live in the Taj Mahal."
"He does when he's in Atlantic City. This turkey don't even have no gun turrets. What kind of arms dealer is he, anyway?"
"Low profile."
"Fuckin' A."

...I hadn't found any weapons in the upstairs rooms. Since I knew, firsthand, that Hannibal had at least one gun, this probably meant he had the gun with him. Hannibal didn't seem like the kind of guy to leave his armaments in the cookie jar.

...I went to the refrigerator and looked at the wrapper on the cold cuts. They'd been bought at the ShopRite two days earlier. "This is really creepy," I said to Lula. "Someone's living in this house." And my unspoken thought was that they could be home any minute.

"Yeah, and he don't know much about cold cuts," Lula said. "He got turkey breast and Swiss cheese when he could have got salami and provolone."

...There was the sound of a lock clicking open,a nd Lula and I both stood up straight.
"Uh-oh," Lula said.
The door opened. Cynthia Lotte stepped into the room and squinted at us in the dim light. "What the hell are you doing here?" she asked.

...She kicked at a pair of red silk paisley boxers lying on the floor. "You see these boxers?" She took aim and fired five rounds into the shorts. "These were Homer's."
"Dang," Lula said. "Don't hold back."
"He could be very charming," Cynthia said. "But he had a short attention span when it came to women."

Cynthia opened the door and flicked the light on in the garage. And there it was . . . the silver Porsche.
"My Porsche! My porsche!" Cynthia yelped. "I never thought I'd see it again." She stopped yelping and wrinkled her nose. "What's that smell?"
... Cynthis ran to the car. "I hope he left me the keys. I hope --" She stopped short and looked in the car window. "Someone's sleeping in my car."
Lula and I grimaced.
And Cynthis started screaming. "He's dead! He's dead! He's dead in my Porsche!"

..."Do you recognize him?" I asked Cynthia.
"No. I never saw him before. This is terrible. How could this happen? There's blood on my upholstery."

..."Hey, wait a minute," I said. "This is a crime scene. You should leave everything alone."
"The hell I will," Cynthia said. "this is my car, and I'm driving away with it. I work for a lawyer. I know what happens. They'll impound this car until the world comes to an end. And then his wife'll probably get it."

------------ ... The garage door slid closed, and Lula and I were left with the dead guy.
Lula shifted foot to foot. "Think we should say something over the deceased? I don't like to disrespect the dead."
"I think we should get the hell out of here."
"Amen," Lula said, and she made the sign of the cross.
"I thought you were Baptist."
"Yeah, but we don't got any hand signals for an occasion like this."


Friday, September 9, 2011

commerce (fringe)

"I thought you were dead."

"Naw, I just wished I was dead. My dad got transferred to Arkansas, so I went with them, but I'm telling you, Arkansas was no place for me. No action, you know what I mean? And if you want to go to the ocean it takes days."

That's from Hot Six, "a Stephanie Plum novel" by Janet Evanovich. Copyright 1994. St. Martin's Press, New York.
(I find it mildly amusing, this kid who doesn't "get" Arkansas: the place he prefers is Trenton, New Jersey - [?!?].)
----------- {excerpt}:
The good thing about the Mooner is that he's almost always home. The bad thing is that, while his house is occupied, his head is frequently vacant.

"Oh, wow," he said, answering the door. "Did I forget my court date again?"

"Your court date is two weeks from tomorrow."

"I need to talk to you about the wind machine. It's sort of dented. And it's missing a rear light. But I'll fix it."
"Hey, don't worry about it, dude. These things happen."
"Maybe I should talk to the owner."
"The Dealer."
"Yeah, the dealer. Where's he located?"

"He's at the end row house. He's got a garage, dude. Can you dig it? A garage." Since I'd just spent the winter scraping ice off my windshield, I could appreciate Mooner's garage excitement. I thought a garage was a pretty wondrous thing, too.

The end row house was about a quarter-mile away so we drove.
"Do you think he'll be home?" I asked Mooner when we got to the end of the block.
"The Dealer's always home. He's gotta be there to deal."
I rang the bell, and Dougie Kruper opened the door. I went to school with Dougie but hadn't seen him in years. In fact, I'd heard a rumor that he'd moved to Arkansas and died.
"Jeez, Dougie," I said, "I thought you were dead."

"Naw, I just wished I was dead. My dad got transferred to Arkansas, so I went with them, but I'm telling you, Arkansas was no place for me. No action, you know what I mean? And if you want to go to the ocean it takes days."
"Are you the dealer?"
"Yessiree. I'm the Dealer. I'm the man. You want something. I got it. We make a deal."
"Bad news, Dougie. The wind machine was in an accident."

"Girl, the wind machine is an accident. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but I can't unload it on anyone. Soon as you brought it back I was gonna push it off a bridge. Unless, of course, you want to buy it."

"It doesn't actually suit my purposes. It's too memorable. I need a car that disappears."
"A stealth car. The Dealer might have such a vehicle," Dougie said. "Come around back, and we'll take a look-see."
Around back was wall-to-wall cars. There were cars on the road, and cars in his yard, and a car in his garage.

Dougie led me to a black Ford Escort. "Now this here is a genuine disappearing car."


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

be for watching out

Reading some reader comments in the New York Times, I learn I am not the only person wondering / worrying about America's middle class.

One wrote:
I'll tell you what - when I get a job, I will not forget what corporate America and "our" government has done to the middle class. I will continue to keep my spending at the minimum levels I have learned to live at, because none of these blood suckers deserve to get one dime of my "disposable income" when they are already sitting on trillions of dollars of cash they won't let go of. That, and voting out the incumbents, [in Congress] is the only way to make them feel the pain they have inflicted on others.

Another one said:
You've made very good points...Unfortunately congress has been tuned to a different station for more than 25 years, locked-on by big pharma, too big to fail and Wall St. Follow the money....

Because most of the people in Congress are millionaires, they have no interest in restoring the middle class. They are super comfortable and live like celebrities. They are totally out of touch with the needs of real people. Big business owns them and government policy so it will NOT change. Time for the UPRISING by the people and for the people!
(??) yikes

Here's one:
This advice [in the article] runs counter to every policy initiative over the last ten years. Therefore it is most likely right.
Now, if only politicians will focus on the problem at hand and not on destroying each other. One can always dream.
These comments (sentiments) from people in America make me think even more that having an "exchange" of congressmen, senators, and people in jobs that pay less than $40,000 per year, (for example), 2 months out of every year they're in Congress would be a good idea. If a senator or representative didn't want to do that, then he shouldn't run.

You know I stand here, and I'm shocked when someone doesn't vote and I try to talk 'em into it, and yet behavior of congresspeople in Washington sometimes feeds the arguments against me, rather than on my side. (It's like, "That's right, they DON'T need to vote because we DON'T care about 'em!!!") That's the vibe that people get.

There's a disconnect and a growing contempt, I perceive, & sometimes the contempt is hair-trigger, like a snap decision or a knee-jerk reaction.

The disconnect could be meaningfully addressed with "congressional exchange".

And it wouldn't be the same two months for everybody. It would be staggered, so that you'd always have, in Congress, some politicians and some real people.

I was thinking yesterday -- didn't want John Boehner cutting my hair, but -- he could help keep the books, and appointments, think up advertising ideas, help buy products, & sweep hair off the floor. There's always something people can do.

Someone -- I don't know who -- taught me, "There is dignity in all work." Our congresspeople should be for remembering that.
("be - for" -- I used to know somebody who was from a very small farming town, where people would say, "You had better be for washing that car!" or "You'd better be for doing your homework!"

I don't want America to become like a third world country.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

ways and means

My hairstylist approved the concept of having each member of Congress spend two consecutive months per year working in a regular job, while the person who holds that job rest of year -- goes to Washington for the same two months.

Trading places.

There would have to be guidelines, of course.

I don't want John Boehner cutting my hair;
and my hairstylist may not go to Congress and start a war.

The U.S. Senator who does the job for a person in local business cannot be put in a position where he can bankrupt the place, or sell it to somebody else.

And the local businessman may not introduce bills or vote on them, while he's in Washington, because he isn't an actual Senator.
------------------However, he may suggest ideas to other senators, contribute to discussions, and Learn-A-Lot, then bring that knowledge back home. Same with the Senator: he brings the knowledge of daily life "in-the-population" back with him, to Congress.

This program (or law or policy) would
a) make Congress much less "out of touch" with the people of America; and
b) I think you'd end of getting a whole different type of person running for office.

The ones who are more interested in self-aggrandizement and publicity would lose interest in politics and go into show business, instead.


Monday, September 5, 2011

on the road again

[from "Ithaca"
by Constantine P. Cavafy (1863 - 1933)

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time ...

visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road....


Friday, September 2, 2011

Texas teacher

Today when I arrived at work, I saw a young Asian man run for his car, smoking a cigarette as he ran.

quotes from Lyndon Johnson, U.S. President, 1963 - 1968:

"We live in a world that has narrowed into a neighborhood before it has broadened into a brotherhood."

"I am a free man, an American, a United States Senator, and a Democrat, in that order."

"Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one."

"Every president wants to do right."

"The presidency has made every man who occupied it, no matter how small, bigger than he was; and no matter how big, not big enough for its demands."

"I believe the destiny of your generation -- and your nation -- is a rendezvous with excellence."

"I am making a collection of the things my opponents have found me to be and, when this election is over, I am going to open a museum and put them on display."

"The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men."

"While you're saving your face, you're losing your ass."

"We have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society."

"A man without a vote is a man without protection."

"Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There's nothing to do but to stand there and take it."


Thursday, September 1, 2011

sifting out the hearts of men

The governor of our state came to the plant where I work to take a tour, today. For most tours, a manager or director takes the people in on the one side and then when they're done with that, they go in on the other side.

People work very hard and diligently on both sides, but the second side is the hardest and dirtiest. Grittiest. Most elemental.

So when the governor and the 7 or 8 people with him came out from the first side, they went --
straight out the door!
-- heading for the corporate building -- framed paintings on the walls, carpet, grand interior design, quiet, peace, High Incomes. ...

He skipped the gritty side. He remained distant from the hardest-working people.

I think that is the opposite
of what a Leader should do.

Was he squeamish?
Is he a sissy?
Is he all hat and no cowboy?

He may have simply been late for something.
(On the other hand, he came here later than the time we were told -- if he can be late for us, can he not be late for the Next Thing on his schedule...?)

Or maybe the decision to tour only the first side and not the second was made by a director in our company. At first I thought, in that case the governor should have said, "I'd especially like to tour the second side." On the other hand, he wouldn't want to seem to be throwing his weight around; in that case, that would be the right decision.

Thinking about this led me back to something else I was thinking about:
I have this idea --
our senators and representatives in Washington D.C. should spend two months (consecutive) each year they're in office
working in a regular job. They would trade places with the regular person in the regular job. The regular person would go to Washington and fill in for the representative or senator.

During the two months when the -- senator, for example -- is working as a -- mmh, teacher, let's say, he receives the pay that the teacher receives. During those two months, the teacher fills the senate seat and learns how things work out there, and receives the senator's salary.

A representative works in Washington for ten months, and then for two consecutive months trades places with an assembly line worker. For those two months the U.S. representative punches the clock, lives on the hourly wage, and if she gets sick and is out for two or three days, she loses pay for those three days.

(And they can't vote themselves a pay increase so that twelve months' of pay are condensed into ten and they actually end up making MORE by filling in for a person in a regular job. No, nononononono....Ah - don' think-so...)

The reason I think this, is because I think a big problem to be worked on and improved and removed is simply a lack of giving a damn about the people they're supposed to be representing. Having empathy, and fully realizing in a meaningful way that another person is -- A PERSON, TOO is something that all of our elected officials at the national level need to work on.

Just words -- listening to a working person speak, or reading a book -- isn't going to do it. They should go do the work and live on the pay. Physical experience is the key.

When you read about what leaders in Congress say about the general population:
"the ordinary people"
"the everyday people"
....Go jump in the lake! I do not feel ordinary, the people I know and see are not "ordinary," they have extraordinary courage and intestinal fortitude to work for a living and battle it out in a society which has not selected them for pre-fabricated and agreed-upon fabulousness and free money, like the CEOs who bankrupt the business they're in and get rewarded with billions of dollars. That is the opposite of realistic. I am not an economist but it doesn't take John Kenneth Galbraith to know something's off with that system.

Maybe what is "ordinary" -- common -- is NOT a man who works for a living, a man who didn't start the 20-point game of life with 17 points, but rather with 0 -- that isn't ordinary, it's amazing.

Maybe what's common, ordinary, and un-amazing is a lying, name-calling, manipulating, oblivious self-promoter in Congress who "mysteriously" goes from being barely upper-middle-class when he arrives in Washington to being a millionaire. (Gee -- maybe he had a part-time job doing something that pays -- like -- really a lot - !)

When I worked with the state legislature, some of the representatives and senators would refer to their constituents, not as "ordinary" or "everyday," but as --
"the people out there"...

Out there. Ah.